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Questioning the Navy’s Right to Exist Pt 2

June 2, 2009

We continue our study of Barrett Tillman’s amazing article appearing in Proceedings magazine in which he asks “Why do we have a Navy“?. The following are key quotes:

A forced (amphibious) entry such as Tarawa or Iwo Jima has not occurred in 64 years and does not appear likely in the immediate future.

In the absence of power projection, navies default to lesser tasks.

The U.S. Navy’s Cold War mission of deterrence largely vanished with the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago.

Institutional knowledge of war at sea is a precious commodity.

Navy supporters should realize that as “the greatest” officers and Sailors depart the scene, so does much of the population disposed to support the service politically.

China’s development of the DF-21 long-range antiship ballistic missile, presumably intended for American carriers, has drawn much attention. Yet even granting the perfection of such a weapon, the most obvious question goes begging: why would China use it? Why would Beijing start a war with its number-two trading partner-a war that would ruin both economies?

In today’s world the most urgent naval threat consists not of ships, subs, or aircraft, but of mines-and pirates.

A new generation of ships, weapons, tactics, and doctrine remain untried in combat.

History shows that peacetime expectations almost never are realized in combat.

Counting from 1967 we are 40-plus years into the missile age of naval warfare, but there have been only a handful of small engagements since then.

If history is any indicator, a genuine war at sea may come out of port field, with unlikely antagonists (witness Britain-Argentina).

While the U.S. Navy’s current status is nowhere as grim as the Royal Navy’s, the likelihood of serious cutbacks exists in the current and future political atmosphere.

Concerning the Royal Navy, back in Dec. 2008 we wrote a like article for Opinions Editorials titled “Does America Need a Navy?“:

The world might regret the loss of the Royal Navy far more than the demise of the US Fleet. It is the British who have used their fleet the most aggressively since World War 2, fighting one of the few major naval wars of the missile age in the Falklands and also conducting more amphibious assaults than the US, against Egypt in 1956, and in the aforementioned South Atlantic War of 1982. Some also forget that it was Royal Marines backed by US Navy Seals which led the assault on Saddam’s port of Umm Qasr in the 2003 Iraq Invasion. Currently a British commander is also leading the European Unions anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden while the mighty US Navy sits out the fight

For the record, in no way do I support a smaller and defensive-minded US Navy. As long as we can afford one, I believe the USA should lead the world on the high seas. No other nation on earth has ever done so with such selflessness, and with a goal of a more prosperous and peaceful world. Only the USA has any interest or ability to maintain freedom of the seas around the world, or can prop up our current global economy in which it benefits all nations, even those who hate us.  A stand-off, physically impressive but passive fleet uninterested in today’s problems, or seeking to avoid challenges when it is thrust upon them as in the outbreak of piracy in recent years, is a luxury we can no longer afford. Use it or lose it.

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